Telling your brand story effectively is challenging. How do you succinctly communicate who you are, what you do, and why you’re different? How do you talk about your product or service in a compelling way? How do you communicate your beliefs impactfully? And how do you tell a consistent, cohesive story (especially if there are many different content creators working on behalf of your brand)? It starts with your brand messaging.
When you can successfully articulate your brand in simple, powerful language, you can communicate effectively with the people you’re trying to reach and, ultimately, convert them.
Unfortunately, many brands don’t have a solid brand messaging framework. We see lackluster value props, murky selling points, and other weak messaging making their way into marketing materials across the web. Luckily, you can avoid this fate. Here, we’ve outlined a simple brand messaging framework that will empower you to tell your story far and wide. Whether you need to refine your current messaging or start from scratch, complete this exercise and you’ll be good to go.
But First, Why Does Brand Messaging Matter?
Your content tells your brand story, whether or not you realize it. To make the most impact, you need to tell your story consistently across all touchpoints, in every piece of content.
But ask five different people on your team to describe your brand and you might hear five different answers. Thus, without a collective understanding of your brand, your content is likely disjointed. This is why brand messaging matters. By clearly articulating who you are, what you do, and how you do it—in clear, simple, and memorable language—you make it easier for your team to talk about your brand consistently.
Whether you’re creating your website home page, sales brochures, or product packaging, with this foundation, you can ensure that every piece of communication is aligned and, therefore, effective.
What Does Brand Messaging Architecture Look Like?
Your brand messaging architecture is a carefully constructed framework comprised of your:
- Value proposition
- Brand messaging pillars
Brand Messaging Framework
This framework is built intentionally, from the tagline (the big idea), down to value prop (what you do), to your brand messaging pillars (how you do it). Thus, every element reinforces the other cohesively and consistently. Additionally, no matter where people are in the buyer’s journey, your brand messaging always provides an entry point into your brand story.
How to Create Your Brand Messaging Framework
You may have a version of your brand messaging framework—or pieces of it—already documented. If it’s been a while, however, gather your brand team and discuss each element in detail. Once you have each element articulated, it’s important to visualize it so that content creators can see how each tier influences the next.
That said, know that strong brand messaging doesn’t start with your tagline or value prop; it starts with understanding the core of your brand. Thus, before diving into your messaging, it’s crucial that you have a solid understanding of two things:
1) Your Brand Heart
Your Brand Heart is the articulation of your brand’s core principles: who you are and what you believe in. Without this North Star, it is difficult to act or communicate consistently. To ensure you have a firm grasp of this, download our Brand Heart workbook below to identify your purpose, vision, mission, and values.
2) Your Brand Positioning
What niche do you fill? How are you different than your competitors? This information will influence every level of your messaging. To identify this, you need to conduct market research, as well as a thorough competitive analysis. (Follow our step-by-step guide to complete a competitive analysis if you’re a noob.)
Once you’ve done that research and identified where you stand, it’s helpful to distill your positioning into a one-sentence description that explains what you do better than everyone else. We like this template from branding pro Marty Neumeier:
Articulating this succinctly helps you ensure that your brand messaging is an extension of your positioning. Once you have this locked, you can start on your messaging.
Step 1: Craft Your Value Proposition
Although the brand messaging framework ladders up from messaging pillars to the tagline, we find it helpful to start with your value prop, as it is the core of who you are/what you do.
Your value prop is simple: It explains both the functional and emotional benefits your product or service provides—the value people get from it. It specifies exactly how your brand solves a problem and, most importantly, why people should choose you.
Any easy way to articulate this is with Steve Blank’s XYZ template:
You can also think of this as the short elevator pitch to sell your brand. (Many brands even have their value prop as the first blurb on their homepage.)
Again, it’s important to articulate your value prop well, as these benefits will be echoed throughout your brand materials, either directly (e.g., on your homepage) or indirectly (e.g., through your blog articles).
Tip: First, identify all of your emotional and functional benefits, then pare it down to the most significant. Write a long paragraph that outlines what you want to say, then continue to iterate to distill it into a few sentences. For more tips, follow our guide to create an awesome value prop.
Step 2: Distill Your Tagline
This is where your inner Don Draper can really shine. Your tagline is a short, snappy summation that combines both your brand positioning and value prop. For example, think of Home Depot. They’re all about empowering DIYers, which is summed up in their tagline: “You can do it. We can help.”
Tip: Try to use as few words as possible (it’s a short line, not a paragraph.) Focus on emotion, too. What do you want people to feel when they read your tagline? To learn more about what makes a memorable tagline, follow our guide to write a great tagline. You can also get inspired by these great examples from brands across industries.
Step 3: Flesh Out Your Brand Messaging Pillars
Brand messaging pillars are a crucial element of your brand messaging, and a particularly useful tool for content creators. They are basically the three major themes, benefits, or selling points that make your brand unique.
As you craft your messaging, identify your three selling points, as well as the talking points that support them. One great thing about this exercise is that by distilling them down into brief talking points, you identify catchy phrases or keywords you can infuse into all of your content, whether it’s product packaging or a social media ad.
Tip: Sometimes you may have multiple selling points. Prioritize your differentiators, or consider ways to incorporate those points into others.
Step 4: Refine Your Brand Messaging
Take a final pass to tweak your brand messaging:
- Does each tier support the next?
- Is it written in your brand voice? (Here’s how to find your brand voice if you’re not sure.)
- Are there opportunities to cut, condense, or inject more emotion?
- Are benefits clear and consistent?
Note: If you’re stuck between taglines or versions of your value prop, consider A/B testing them through facebook ads. This is a low-cost way to gain quick insight into what resonates.
As a final step, document your full brand messaging hierarchy, so that your team can “see” how it all connects. For example, let’s take a look at what the brand messaging might look like for the clothing brand Everlane, which produces high-quality, ethically produced wardrobe basics.
Everlane Brand Messaging
How to Use Your Brand Messaging Framework
Once you have your beautiful brand messaging, put it to use:
1) Include it in your brand guidelines. Introduce the messaging, and make sure everyone is on the same page. If you don’t have them, follow our guide to create brand guidelines to ensure your content is consistent.
2) Use it to brainstorm ideas. Any time you create a piece of content, you should be able to justify how it supports your brand story.
We find it especially helpful to brainstorm around specific messaging pillars, as a single pillar can easily become an entire batch of content. For example, if you’re a cookie company and one of your differentiators is “distinct flavors,” you might create:
- A spotlight on the tastemakers who come up with your flavors
- A deep dive into the ingredients you use
- A #tbt post on the first flavor you ever created
- A contest to vote on the next flavor
- A roundup of seasonal flavors
- A quick data visualization for Instagram that shows the popularity of different flavors
You should also create personas so that you know which stories will resonate most with the people you’re trying to reach.
3) Clarify messaging for each stage of the buyer’s journey. To make your messaging effective, you need to say the right thing at the right time. Find out how to map your buyer’s journey to clarify messaging and identify gaps in your content.
4) Write for conversion. You don’t want to come on too strong (or too early in the buyer’s journey), but there are many opportunities to nudge people along the path to purchase. Follow our tips to write compelling copy to up your game across the board.
Remember: Brand Messaging Is Just One Storytelling Tool
Beyond copy, there are plenty of ways to tell your brand story. The more tools you have, the better your story will be. For more ways to engage people through content:
- Make sure your visual identity accurately reflects your brand. Use our handy checklist to design a comprehensive identity.
- Use culture marketing to attract more people. Whether it’s customers or talent, find out how culture marketing can help you create impactful content.
- Mix up your content. Start with these 7 ideas tell your brand story if you’re looking to experiment.